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Chapter 10: Visualizing Home

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These are two late-nineteenth-century representations of Kwakwaka’wakw homes in what is now British Columbia. Both of these images were created by white men with vested interests in creating knowledge about the Kwakwaka’wakw—anthropologist Franz Boas created the floor plan, and Indian Commission photographer Edward Dossetter made the photograph. As suggested by the details of the photographs’ publication and preservation (information provided in the textbook), it seems Boas and Dossetter created these images for an assumed non-Indigenous audience and one that was educated and of the middling or elite classes. This is the same audience that Paige Raibmon considers in her chapter, “Living on Display: Colonial Visions of Aboriginal Domestic Space” (Chapter 3).

  1. How did Boas’s diagram and Dossetter’s photograph put Indigenous domestic space “on display” as Raibmon explains this?
  2. How do these images reflect the late-nineteenth-century interest in and concern for Indigenous cultural authenticity?

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These three images show architect R. A. Abraham’s suggested layout for a farmhouse in 1913. By this time, many social reformers perceived the Canadian countryside as a “healthier” environment than the rapidly expanding industrial cities such as Montreal. The images appeared in the popular periodical Farmer’s Magazine, accompanied by an article about the ideal home of an up-to-date farm family.

  1. How do these floor plans and the elevation drawing project the notions of “respectability” and “order” that were also associated with urban, middle-class homes of late-Victorian (c. 1880–c.1900) Canadian cities?
  2. What assumptions about the ideal composition of a nuclear rural family in the early twentieth century, including the number of children and the place of extended family members, do you see in these images?

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The rise of public-health concerns and social documentary surveys of working-class living conditions coincided with increasing middle-class access to modern conveniences for the home. Figures 6 and 7, taken by photographer Arthur Goss of the Toronto Department of Public Works, show the interiors of some working-class homes. Figures 8 and 9 are advertisements from a catalogue for Mott’s indoor plumbing fixtures.

These four images were all drawn from the same archival collection, originally assembled by Toronto’s Department of Health in 1912–1913 as part of efforts to survey and regulate issues of public health in the city.

  1. Why would a Toronto bureaucrat have saved photographs and advertisements in the same folder? What does this suggest about the ways visual culture was perceived in this era of urban and social reform?
  2. Why should historians care about how historical materials (such as these photographs and advertisements) were produced and also collected, arranged, and saved?

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In the interwar period, advertisements emphasizing the healthfulness of foods were common. These three images are examples of advertisements for Canadian cereal companies that were published in newspapers and popular magazines.

  1. To what extent do you think specialized scientific language was helpful in selling these cereals as “healthy” and “natural”? What connections can be made between this language and the medical scientific languages of “public health” we read about in Valerie Minnett and Mary Anne Poutanen’s Chapter 4?
  2. How should historians think about the relationship between text and image in advertisements such as these? More specifically, does the scale of the larger images and smaller text suggest something about the visual strategies of advertising and consumerism?

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These are proposed designs for postwar suburban family homes published in Home Building in Canada, an annual publication that offered advice to home builders and buyers. The federal government, and later various provincial governments, worked in close co-operation with architects, construction companies, and financial institutions to nurture a regulated, managed housing boom in the postwar decades. As Patrick Vitale’s (Chapter 8) and Sean Purdy’s (Chapter 9) chapters suggest, housing became dominated by the work of a wide range of experts and planners who sought to engineer both better homes and a better Canada. While men dominated house production, home buying was very much done by both men and women, something real estate agents and marketers understood very well.

  1. How did these floor plans market the aesthetics of new suburban homes? Look for both technical and non-technical elements in the images and text.
  2. Why are the photographs only of the exteriors, while the plans carefully define interiors only?

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Advertisements are often highly gendered, as these three examples from the 1950s and 1970s illustrate. These advertisements, which appeared in newspapers and popular magazines, commodify aspects of suburban living—and in the case of figure 17, suburban living itself. As chapters by Deborah McPhail (Chapter 6) and Franca Iacovetta and Valerie Korinek (Chapter 7) demonstrate, there was an assumption that the “proper” living conditions achieved through effective planning and smart consumer habits would cultivate both good citizenship and personal and familial satisfaction and happiness.

  1. How do these advertisements “sell” happiness and satisfaction? How did gender and class intersect in this framing?
  2. How do these images speak to the interconnectedness of home, work, and play in postwar Canadian suburbs?